MODERN CHRISTIAN: Wait. There are many parts of the Scriptures that show that at best Jesus had an ambivalent attitude toward Mary at best.
ANCIENT CHRISTIAN: Like where?
Close up of a stained glass window portraying the baby Jesus and Saint Mary
MODERN CHRISTIAN: In Luke 11:27-28, it says, “And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!’ But He said, ‘More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!’” (NKJV)
See, he corrects the woman saying that those who are really blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it, not His mother. You see, he said, “More than that.”
ANCIENT CHRISTIAN: That’s strange.
MODERN CHRISTIAN: It’s not really strange when you think about it. Just because she is a parent does not mean that she should get all this blessedness conferred on her….
ANCIENT CHRISTIAN: No, that’s not what’s strange. Your translation said, “More than that.”
MODERN CHRISTIAN: Oh yes. Actually, that is a generous translation. Other translations have “On the contrary,” or “Rather.”
ANCIENT CHRISTIAN: None of those are correct; they do not capture the meaning of the word our Lord used here.
MODERN CHRISTIAN: What is that word?
ANCIENT CHRISTIAN: In Greek it is menounge. It is used three other times in the New Testament, and each time it is translated “indeed,” and even an emphatic, “Yes indeed!” The word amplifies what someone just said with a further explanation. This means that that word shows full agreement with what a person has just said but further clarifies why what they said is true.
MODERN CHRISTIAN: Give me some examples.
ANCIENT CHRISTIAN: Twice in Romans and once in Philippians. In Philippians 3:8, Paul lists all the works he had accomplished in the flesh when he was a Pharisee: circumcision on the eighth day, he is a true Israelite being from the tribe of Benjamin, a true Jew “a Hebrew of the Hebrews,” a Pharisee, blameless in the Law, and so religious that he even persecuted the Church. Then he says that even though many Jews would see these as scoring points for their religion, he says, “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed [menounge] I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ, and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:7-11).
Here that same word, menounge, answers “indeed,” that all what he thought was a gain has truly been a loss, and he explains why in greater detail. He is now better off being the persecuted than having been the persecutor because He has known our Lord Jesus Christ.
MODERN CHRISTIAN: I can definitely see that.
ANCIENT CHRISTIAN: Then, you have the two instances in Romans. I will go with Romans 10:17-18 first. Paul the Apostle is discussing how the faith comes by hearing; he emphasizes hearing and says,
“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed [menounge]:
“Their sound has gone out to all the earth,
And their words to the ends of the world” (Romans 10:17-18).
He first asks a question whether they have heard, and he emphatically answers it using this same word menounge which our Lord used in Luke 11:27-28, and then further explains why it is “yes indeed,” and he quotes a prophecy to support that what has happened in the world was foretold by the Prophets, so it is all in the plan of God.
MODERN CHRISTIAN: I definitely see that too.
ANCIENT CHRISTIAN: Also, he used this word, menounge, in Romans 9:20, but we need to read it in context in order for us to see how it also has the same application.
If you read it before verse 20, Paul is talking about how God wills that some receive mercy and some are hardened. So all fall within the will of God. Paul then says, “You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?’ But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?” (Romans 9:19-21).
He says something, affirms its truth, and then further explains it by using an analogy following the word “indeed.” Do you see the pattern?
MODERN CHRISTIAN: Yes.
ANCIENT CHRISTIAN: So, with all that said, this word always functions as an affirmation then further explains why what someone said is true. This applies to Mary. When He says, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:28), what He is telling the woman who blessed his mother is, “Yes, she is indeed blessed as you say, and she is blessed because she hears the word of God and keeps it. That is what is more blessed, not only that she bore Me.” So it does not show ambivalence, but rather, it shows affirmation.
MODERN CHRISTIAN: But, in another part, in Mark 3, it says, “Then His brothers and His mother came, and standing outside they sent to Him, calling Him. And a multitude was sitting around Him; and they said to Him, ‘Look, Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking You.’ But He answered them, saying, ‘Who is My mother, or My brothers?’ And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, ‘Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.’” That shows His ambivalence.
ANCIENT CHRISTIAN: On the contrary, it shows His affirmation again. He says, “Who is My mother?” and we already established that He affirmed that she is blessed not only because she bore Him but because she heard the word of God and kept it (that is lived according to the Word of God). Have you forgotten that already? Here he answers that “Whoever does the will of God is My brother and sister and mother.” He wants to point out that the relationship that believers have with Him are not limited to flesh and blood, but includes all who hear, keep, and do the will of God. We established that she did those things. Did you forget that earlier we talked about her faith, hope, love, courage, and witness? The multitude was trying to distract Him from preaching His message by having Him go back to His mother, but He pointed out to them that like His mother, so were those with Him in His ministry; it was not only his flesh and blood that were His family, but also those who believed in Him like she believed in Him. Thus, they could not distract Him from being with His Apostles and followers. Do you disagree?
MODERN CHRISTIAN: No. You have a point. Where else do we see her faith besides accepting the angel’s message and at the Cross? I mean, these are at the beginning of Jesus’s earthly life and the end of Jesus’s ministry.
ANCIENT CHRISTIAN: It’s her whole life actually, not just two events. Let’s go back to the earliest years of His ministry to the very beginning of His miracles. He and His mother went to a wedding in Cana of Galilee (you can read about this in John 2). The hosts ran out of wine. This is not an important issue, but Saint Mary came to Him and simply told Him, “They have no wine.” She did not even tell Him to do anything, yet He knew what she meant. That is how close they were in their relationship. Then, He said, “What does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come,” but the Greek actually says, “What is that to you and Me? My hour has not yet come,” meaning this has no significance to Him, but because she asked, He acted, and the first miracle He performed was a result of her interceding for the servants of the reception. How much of a life and a strong relationship would it have taken to get the Lord, the Son of God, to change his mind about what He was going to do? That tells you what type of life she had spent with Him, a life full of faith and the Word of God. In addition, she said to them, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” (John 2:5). She had full faith that whatever He did, it was going to solve the problem. She had such a strong relationship with Him that He acted when apparently He did not originally intend to do so. Then this miracle resulted in Him being glorified, it says it “manifested His glory,” so her request led to His glory. Then it says, “His disciples believed in Him” (John 2:11), so her request led to others believing in Him. Up until then, he was simply a Rabbi to His disciples; now they saw He had power to do miracles meaning God was surely with Him, and He was not any regular teacher, but He was sent from God.
So add to Saint Mary’s virtues that she brought the glory to our Lord Jesus and she caused others (actually the first disciples) to believe (or deepen their faith) in Him in addition to all the other spiritual virtues she had that can only come from a life lived close to God.
Her life and her virtues which came from being close to God through her love and faith is a model for all Christians to follow; it shows us what can happen if we choose to follow God, and more important than that, God poured out His grace upon her more than any other, but look at her response and what it led to: glory to God, belief in our Lord Jesus Christ, faith, hope, love, courage, effective prayer, and witness.
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